PCA wants to help older relatives who step up in wake of opioid crisis

Antionette Lee
February 03, 2019 - 3:20 pm
Dominic Barilone is 59 years old, and his wife, Andrea, is 61. They both thought they would only be worried about retiring around this age, but then life happened.

Antionette Lee/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — For decades, grandparents have helped take care of their grandchildren.

But as the nation grapples with the opioid crisis and millions are debilitated by addiction, more older relatives are having to step up.

Dominic Barilone is 59 years old, and his wife, Andrea, is 61. They both thought they would only be worried about retiring around this age, but then life happened. 

"Now, we're both full-time mommy and daddy at our age," Dominic said.  

They adopted their 5-year-old grandson, Dominic, after their son lost his battle with opioids. But they say that sacrifice has come with challenges. 

"Alot of our resources that we originally had really got used up over the years in trying to take care of my son through his opioid addiction as far as going to rehabs, and transportation, living facilities," said Dominic. He also adds that there are "issues, either health-wise or being able to use a computer."  

In addition to the financial burden, it's not easy keeping up with a 5-year-old. 

"He wants to ride his bike, he wants to play outside. He wants to run around and ya know, its difficult sometimes being our age to try and keep up with him," said Andrea. 

Cheryl Clark from the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging says their Caregiver Support Program gives grandparents and older relatives the legal, financial, and emotional relief they need. 

"There's no waiting list. You can call the PCA helpline at 215-765-9040 or go to the PCA website," Clark said. 

"The finances that are given to us were able to pay for our babysitting service and me and my wife are actually able to go and enjoy a dinner for a couple of hours and get a little bit of our life back," said Dominic.  

Andrea added that "they do have a program on Saturdays where we can actually drop him off from like 10 a.m. to 1.30 p.m. So that helps him being around other children and gives us a little break as well. So going forward, if we can get part of our life back - even to go out to dinner - that's what I would like to accomplish."   

Dominic says the program is even helping find a compatible friend to socialize with. 

"That's a really good resource. That helps me get up in the morning. The blessing of God, knowing that eventually I can be able to go for a cup of coffee with somebody my own age," he said. 

The Barilones hope sharing their story will encourage more people in similar situations to reach out for help. 

"The more the disease comes out from the shadows, the more we can fix the challenges that we have ahead of us," he added.